The most important factor in defining a disciple is the teachings of Jesus. He was the disciple maker; He was speaking to the disciples when the Great Commission was issued. Jesus’ definitions are head and shoulders above any other. Jesus defined a disciple, and we will consider that profile in detail in the next few pages.
We can summarize Jesus’ teaching on disciples as follows. A disciple:
- Is willing to deny self, take up a cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
- Puts Christ before self, family, and possessions (Luke 14:25–35).
- Is committed to Christ’s teachings (John 8:31).
- Is committed to world evangelism (Matthew 9:36–38).
- Loves others as Christ loves (John 13:34–35).
- Abides in Christ, is obedient, bears fruit, glorifies God, has joy, and loves the brethren (John 15:7–17).
If a person is not willing to make such commitments, Jesus declares emphatically three times, “He cannot be my disciple” (see Luke 14:26–27, 33).
To draw the conclusion that Jesus made no distinction between believing in Him and commitment to Him is to ignore the facts. Jesus spoke to many about the importance of eternal life. To Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and the thief on the cross, He did not mention the rigors of discipleship. He emphasized belief and trust; “… Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). John 6:25–29 and John 11:25 also provide Jesus’ teaching on salvation as distinct from His teachings on the requirements of being His disciple. Jesus does make a distinction between the need for faith, leading to eternal life, and the need for commitment, leading to following Him and being His disciple.
Bill Hull, The Disciple-Making Pastor: Leading Others on the Journey of Faith, Revised and Expanded Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 75–76.